Many people want real hardwood flooring, but the cost is often prohibitive, not only in terms of price but also in the depletion of old-growth trees. The best compromise on the market today is what is known as engineered flooring, which incorporates genuine hardwood but only in a relatively thin layer.
Engineered flooring may be made from many different kinds of wood; the most popular are oak, cherry, hickory or maple. This type of flooring can also be made with bamboo, which is growing in popularity due to its quickly renewable nature.
Engineered wood flooring is made by ‘slicing’ a thin layer of the hardwood, then gluing it to other layers of compressed particleboard or plywood. The layers make this flooring more stable than solid wood, as they are laid cross-grain so that the wood expands and contracts in opposite directions, effectually preventing the expansion and contraction that takes place in solid wood when moisture and temperature levels vary.
Consumer reports indicate that engineered wood flooring also retains its resale value, since the flooring can be sanded and refinished as many as three times over a lifetime of 80 years or more.
An engineered oak floor looks just like solid oak or other woods, with the advantages of easier installation, lower cost and minimal shrinkage or expansion that can cause warping. Depending on the thickness of the veneer and the amount of traffic a particular area receives, engineered flooring can last as long as solid wood and look just as good, at about half the cost.
Another appealing characteristic of engineered flooring is that the hardwood veneer can be handcrafted to a very realistic semblance of the wear and tear of decades. Some of the most highly regarded companies in the industry offer engineered plank flooring that really cannot be distinguished from rough-sawn and well-trodden wood from the 18th century.
Though the cost of engineered wood flooring is generally lower than that of solid wood, prices as well as quality can differ to a great extent. The best quality will have a solid overlay of hardwood thick enough to last through one or more sandings if they become necessary, with at least two underlying layers.
As a general rule, the thicker the veneer and the more layers of other compressed wood, the higher the price of the finished product. Buyers should also consider the accuracy of milling, since strips or planks must fit together easily and snugly for the best possible appearance and durability.
Buyers who want the look and feel of real wood on the floors of home or business can certainly find those qualities in the wide range of options in relatively cheap, good quality engineered flooring. When considering such a purchase, it is always a good idea to do some comparison shopping, as there may be sales of over-stocked product, or of a design or style that is no longer quite the ‘rage’ – but probably will be again in a few more years.